"The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short story that was first published in the 1836 edition of the Token and Atlantic Souvenir and reappeared over time in Twice-Told Tales, a collection of short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The short story narrates the events that follow Reverend Mr. Hooper's decision to start wearing a black veil that obscures his full face, except for his mouth and chin. Mr. Hooper simply arrives one day at the meeting house wearing the semi-transparent black veil and refuses from that moment on to take it off, which leads to the loss of his fiancée and isolation from the world. Mr. Hooper even goes as far as to insist on burial in the black veil. Yet, what is crucial to note are Mr. Hooper's last words to those surrounding his deathbed. Mr. Hooper tells them in anger that all of them wear black veils: “I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!” (Hawthorne). This declaration underlines the meanings of the veil in the story as symbolic of sin, darkness, and the duality within human nature. Thus, "The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a literary work of art that demonstrates the author's use of allegory to highlight the psychological angle of the story and characters using agents of symbols, setting, characters, and actions in a coherent way to represent non-literal and metaphorical meanings about the human character (Abrams 7).
The most powerful and foremost symbol, without doubt, is the black veil itself. The black veil comes to represent the darkness and duality of human nature, thereby adding a certain, undeniable psychoanalytical angle to the short story. The black veil represents the sin and gloom that all men carry secretively within their heart as Mr. Hooper's last words to the people surrounding him specifically demonstrate:
Why do you tremble at me alone?"…When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil! (Hawthorne).
Indeed, the black veil signifies the secrets that men keep within their hearts away from the eyes of even the closest people around them. Mr. Hooper is, in fact, an everyman who, unlike others, has his true human nature branded on his face for all to see through his black veil. This brings on him a lonely fate that is, however, necessary to demonstrate a tragic truth: humans feel uncomfortable when confronted by the truth of their dual and dark nature. They would rather suppress the unconscious guilt, desires, and secrets of their actions and live their life in pretension.
The black veil's connotation to themes as morality, sin, secrets, repentance, and the darkness inherent in human nature is closely connected to the setting of the short story. The story takes place in the...